It’s no secret that the idea of ‘autism’ is confusing to people. Some are even frightened of it.
This is hardly surprising given the several different terms used to describe it, the media portrayals of the celebrated but socially awkward, and the fact that we are all apparently ‘a little bit autistic’.
Not only that, but what on earth are we supposed to do with this knowledge?
That’s where Aspiedent comes in.
In August 2014, a sprightly but exhausted autistic senior lecturer and researcher was packing up her belongings into a box. After taking one last look at the office she had inhabited for the last 14 years, solving some of the faculties most complex problems, she handed the key back to HR and left.
With an abundance of brains and not a lot to do with them, Dr Elizabeth Guest made the decision there and then to use her autistic genius and savant skills to make a positive difference to other people’s lives. That is, to change the narrative surrounding autism and show anyone who has ever wondered what autism is, and how it relates to every single person in the world.
The story so far…
In September 2014, Aspiedent was founded by Dr Elizabeth Guest and in November 2014 was joined by HR enthusiast and person with OCD, Jen Blacow.
Jen was to work as Dr Guest’s professional support worker, aiding her with tasks that she finds difficult because of her severe autism.
Aspiedent was soon converted to a CIC (not for profit) with the aim of selling expert autism training to fund Aspiedent’s autism employment services, helping autistic adults understand themselves and improve their chances of obtaining suitable employment. In the early days, Aspiedent did not have enough marketing experience or resources to show off their invaluable offer to employers who needed help with managing diagnosed or undiagnosed autistic people in the workplace.
Meanwhile however, Aspiedent was gaining good traction training Teachers about understanding their autistic students.
Alas, in 2015 Jen’s funding for her role at Aspiedent was stopped. She continued to work unpaid, and Dr Guest continued to fight an incredibly hard battle to get it back while trying to run her business. After a gruelling 4 months, it got to the point where there were 2 weeks for it to get sorted before Aspiedent had to close.
Suddenly, after months of fighting, it came through.
This had not stopped Aspiedent working hard to find a niche teaching autistic adults how to understand themselves and the world leading to improved autism social skills, self-awareness and confidence. Dr Guest sought funding by the council and local grant bodies to deliver this work. The autism training for teachers delivered by Dr Guest was taking off and Aspiedent was looking forward to expanding their services.
However, in 2016, further government funding cuts meant Dr Guest’s vital autism home support dried up almost completely. Schools also came out of local authority control meaning that Aspiedent lost all its income almost overnight.
Aspiedent was once again at risk of closing.
Saved by the fact that Aspiedent was still small and therefore flexible and quick to react, it turned its attention yet again to its original group in need of help: employers.
From then until now, Aspiedent has faced several challenges which are unique to its set up as a social enterprise, and its staff. Elizabeth has had to find innovative ways of working without the support she needs at home, and Jen has fought and won (with Elizabeth’s help) a nasty fluctuation in her OCD.
Four years later, Aspiedent is still here to tell the tale. It has helped large organisations such as KPMG, Carillion, Yorkshire Water and local authorities in Yorkshire feel comfortable and realise the benefits of employing autistic staff through expert autism training.
The next chapter
Putting their money where their mouth is, Aspiedent is proud to be one of the companies that hire adults with Aspergers and at one point had 5 staff, most of whom were autistic. It has also been busy doing extensive research with autistic adults about autism. And it has been granted further funding to deliver services to help autistic adults.
Aspiedent are unique. They bring their professional employee profiling tool used in their workplace Autism Training and Neurodiversity Training to help businesses and employees get closer to their workplace diversity targets and solve problems relating to autism or neurodiversity in the workplace. But in addition, they run their own business therefore are extremely realistic when it comes to employer challenges and what is reasonable in the workplace.
Dr Guest and Jen work on trust and integrity and want to provide you with the tools to break down barriers and build bridges between diverse employees and your organisation, whether it be between all your employees, or between one employee and their line manager. It is about understanding autism and neurodiversity which has the side effect of understanding everybody better.
Take a look at our services which are summarised below.
"Thank you for sharing so much of your experience. Loved the examples – helped me to understand! Thank you also to Jen."
University of Bradford